Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier J.J. Harris poses with three members of the Green Goat Landscapers crew, including ringleader Zorro, left, in her Los Altos Hills backyard Friday morning. Harris rented the goats from the Santa Clara-based company to clear her land of thistle, but they managed to escape Thursday night and required law enforcement assistance to make their way home.
Zorro was the ringleader - or perhaps just the scapegoat. Anyway, J.J. Harris is convinced he's the one who sprang his 80 or so closest friends from her Los Altos Hills property Thursday (April 4) evening, law enforcement heavy on their hooves.
“He plotted an escape,” she said. “I’m sure he plotted an escape because they follow him everywhere. And he’s also – he’s very pushy.”
As of Friday morning, the massive Boer-Kalahari goat and his herd were off the lam and back in confinement. Getting them there, however, required some late-night assistance from five Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office deputies, a Palo Alto Animal Control officer, two goat herders and two goat-herding dogs named Tess and Maggie.
“At the end of the day, all the goats were uninjured, unharmed,” Captain Rich Urena of the Sheriff’s Office said. “They went home.”
Harris rented the herd from Green Goat Landscapers, which provides the animals as an “ecofriendly alternative to cleaning up your overgrown yard,” according to the Santa Clara company’s website. She and her family are building a new home on O’Keefe Lane, and thistle weeds invaded their terraced backyard garden during the lengthy construction process. Green Goat erected temporary electrified net fencing to contain the herd, but the goats discovered a weakness their very first night on the job: a rotted gate latch on the property. They exploited it and made their getaway into the tony neighborhood of gated driveways and homegrown vineyards.
A jogger spotted the escapees loitering around the O’Keefe-Dianne Drive intersection at approximately 9 p.m., and they followed him or her home to a house on the La Rena Lane cul-de-sac, said William Warrior, the animal control officer dispatched for the round up.
“The next thing they knew, the whole pack – er, herd – was up in their front yard just lounging, eating,” he said. “The property owner was pretty easygoing about it. She just worried about being able to move her car in the morning. She was in no hurry to see them evicted.”
Deputies went door-to-door until they connected the goats to the Harris residence, and then they helped Harris, Warrior and Green Goat owners Brian Allen and son Daniel Allen and their dogs funnel the herd down the road using temporary corrals of net fencing and strategically placed squad vehicles.
Although the goats doubled back on their captors at one point, they eventually followed Big Guy, a horned turncoat led by leash, back to O’Keefe.
“I was surprised at how friendly they were,” Warrior said. “It was like being in a petting zoo.”
The goats’ adventure ended just before midnight when the Allens reinforced the Harris property gate with a 2-by-4. By Friday morning, they seemed to have patched things up with their warden, who good-naturedly scratched their heads and slipped them bites of contraband dried corn.
“Goats are great,” Harris said. “And they’re so quiet; I was shocked. You wouldn’t even know they were here. This morning I woke up, they’re in the vineyard. I went over and had coffee with them, said hello.”
View video of the Big Goat Roundup on the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office Twitter profile, @SCCoSheriff.
View Palo Alto Animal Control Officer William Warrior's body cam footage during the roundup on Vimeo.
View Warrior's photos of the roundup on the Town Crier's Facebook page.